With just 100 days until the regular season kickoff, we will take a look at what the Ravens have done to better themselves.
The Baltimore Ravens have been busy since the close of a disappointing 2013 season. Signing veterans, locking up key players hitting free agency and revamping the coaching staff with all-star coaches. A lot is expected of this group in 2014 just based on paper.
The Ravens resigned key members on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. In locking up these players, the Ravens were able to save money and keep consistency in the locker room, which is key for any team in serious competition for the Super Bowl.
Dennis Pitta - Tight End
Clearly one of the more vital players for not only the team but for quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco and Pitta have had chemistry since day one when Pitta was selected in the 2010 NFL draft leading to Pitta being Flacco's security blanket. Having Pitta's sure hands, athleticism and professionalism on the team for the next few years will be great for the offense to get back on track, especially under new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak's tutelage.
Eugene Monroe - Left Tackle
Monroe was the bright spot on a terrible offensive line that was one of the worst in quarterback protection and rushing yards per carry. After the Bryant McKinnie debacle, it is nice to have a professional left tackle that takes the job seriously. After half a year on the team and learning more specifics about how the Ravens play to go with a full offseason workout, Monroe should be a beast this offseason. It doesn't hurt things that Monroe was expected to get a far larger contract than he ended up with as interest in him seemed to be all bluffs and smokescreens, leading the Ravens to arguably get the best steal in free agency with resigning their own player.
Daryl Smith - Linebacker
The Ravens followed up the under-appreciated signing of linebacker Daryl Smith last offseason by giving him a nice contract that will probably see him retire a Raven. Smith was glossed over last offseason due to an injury filled career and being "too old" but proved the naysayers wrong by having a standout year on a tough Ravens' defense that saw him break a franchise record for most pass deflections in a season (19) from future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis. Again, Smith was signed for less than other less proven linebackers were signed, giving the Ravens even more bang for the buck.
Free Agent Signings:
The Ravens were clearly not prepared for the injuries that hit them last season and had to sign veterans to help sure up depth and give the team some edge.
Steve Smith - Wide Receiver
Smith fell to the Ravens after some drama with his former team, the Carolina Panthers and the Ravens were quick to snatch Smith up before he could visit too many teams. Known for his attitude, work ethic and his slogans (ice up son!), Smith not only helps bolster a lackluster wide receiver corps, he adds a much needed mean streak to an offense that is often viewed as 'too soft' due to quarterback Joe Flacco's seeming lack of emotion on the field. While Smith is definitely older than most other receivers in the league, he has also been far more productive for far longer and still looks to have enough speed, football knowledge and skill to take defensive backs to task.
Jeremy Zuttah - Offensive Center
Again, in more effort to patch a terrible offensive line, the Ravens make a great move by grabbing up a solid zone blocking center/guard from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A player that can cover both center and guard and has experience in a zone blocking scheme, he will take over for center Gino Gradkowski and should give immediate help to the interior of the line and even assist both Kolechi Osemele and Marshall Yanda, who are both coming off injuries last year. If any injuries were to happen, he gives the Ravens options, which is a serious bonus.
Owen Daniels - Tight End
When tight end Dennis Pitta went down with his hip injury, it marked the beginning of the downward slide the Ravens took last year. As I mentioned above in his signing, he is quarterback Joe Flacco's security blanket and is a necessary part of this offense, but has shown some serious injury concerns over his career similar to how Todd Heap was for the Ravens in the early 2000s. By signing Owen Daniels, the Ravens get to take the pressure and some of the workload off of Dennis Pitta and spread it around to another tight end with a similar skill set. Daniels having worked with Gary Kubiak over in Houston will only help the offense get more acclimated with the new coach and new scheme while providing some much needed depth for the team.
The Ravens were sad to see offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell go to the Detroit Lions as a head coach, they used the opportunity to clean house and completely revamp the coaching staff with what most would consider an all-star list of coaches.
Gary Kubiak - Offensive Coordinator
Kubiak was a relatively successful head coach with the Houston Texans, even turning Matt Schaub into a Pro Bowl quarterback. He has a long list of accomplishments including being the offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos during their historic time as an offensive juggernaut with John Elway and Terrell Davis. Kubiak is well known in coaching circles for his work with quarterbacks, tight ends and running backs - three areas that the Ravens think they excel at.
Rick Dennison - Quarterbacks
Dennison has followed Kubiak's legacy a little bit having also spent time in Denver and Houston as an offensive coordinator and having been interviewed for head coaching positions. Dennison is as much a part of Houston's offensive success and Schaub's emergence as a legitimate quarterback as Kubiak. With a chance to work with a quarterback with more physical tools in Joe Flacco, Dennison should be able to work some magic on the Super Bowl MVP and get Flacco to heights he hasn't seen yet.
Bobby Engram - Wide Receivers
Engram is a former receiver himself and one with some accolades behind his name. The former Biletnikoff award winner for the best receiver in the country, currently is 4th and 5th in the Seattle Seahawk's recordbooks for career yardage and receptions respectively. Engram was a return specialist throughout his career and is expected to take some of his veteran savvy and add it to a young receiving corps that should take the next leap this year.
It is estimated that the Ravens have roughly $6.6million left in the salary cap after signing everyone but C.J. Mosley and Terrence Brooks, so the offseason additions might not be over quite yet.